Dawn Cosentino joined the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) in February as a project engineer with ISWS's Coordinated Hazard Assessment and Mitigation Program (CHAMP). Joining ISWS as a fully remote employee during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dawn looks forward to getting back out into the field helping people right in their communities and finally getting to meet her coworkers in person!
Tell us a little bit about your role!
As a water resources engineer with the Water Survey, I work with a team of GIS specialists and hydraulic engineers to create FEMA flood and risk maps for communities throughout Illinois. These maps provide flood hazard and risk data so communities can make informed decisions on development and mitigation actions.
What drew you to your particular area of study?
Jobs were scarce when I graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and moved to northeastern Pennsylvania. I found an engineering position with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and learned hydrologic and hydraulic modeling and the regulatory side of floodplain management and the Clean Water Act. My work took me to some of the most beautiful areas of northeastern Pennsylvania. Working along rivers, creeks, and adjacent natural areas is a great way to spend your day out in the field.
What do you love about working at ISWS?
I love working with models and creating something that will help communities and people. There’s also a sense of camaraderie working with your peers and discussing issues or complex projects.
What has been one of your most exciting moments at work?
My most memorable moments at work were usually associated with major flooding events. I’ve responded to flooding and dam emergencies and have worked with various emergency management agencies in the past to ensure the safety of residents and structures. As a water resources consultant, I’ve worked on flood mitigation projects from the planning stages to construction. The most exciting was watching drone footage of floodwaters rising around a flood wall we designed and permitted around an electrical substation. The substation remained completely dry.
What are some common misconceptions about your role?
I think people, in general, don’t really understand what it is I do.
What’s the weirdest part about starting a job in the middle of a pandemic?
I haven’t met most of my coworkers in person yet.
What advice would you give to those just starting out in your field?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions or make mistakes. That’s how you learn!